South Downs Barns

Conversion and construction of a barns complex in the South Downs National Park

This project was commissioned following an invited design competition.

Set in a hollow, high on the South Downs, this project involved the conversion of a complex of barns into a single dwelling. Our client was particularly interested in the project’s relationship to the immediate and wider landscape of the Downs, in living off-grid as far as possible, and in the craft of traditional building methods.

Of the three barns on the site, one had been converted previously but required significant alteration, the main barn was a watertight shell only, and a new barn was to be constructed on the footprint of an earlier building to enclose a new courtyard: the yard of the earlier farmstead.

Courtyard meadow with new bedroom and studio wing with conical roof of new chapel beyond
North-west elevation

The converted barn was to be adapted to provide comfortable accommodation for guests, with a staff flat above. The main barn would become living accommodation including a ‘carriageway’ from the courtyard to the kitchen garden and a stone chimney breast with a balcony, inspired by Lutyens. The new wing would be accessed from the main barn through a new chapel, with a conical roof and windows set out on the cardinal points, and would provide a master bedroom suite, sitting room, painting studio and donkey stables.

Our aim in the design was to reimagine a rather sad collection of redundant agricultural structures as a small, sensitively designed complex of new and renewed buildings, gardens and landscaping for comfortable, modern rural living. We avoided the common approaches to barn conversions and intentionally blurred the distinction in our design between existing and new work, resulting in a cluster of friendly buildings, not wholly agricultural in nature but not entirely domestic either.

The site had an extremely complicated planning status and we coordinated a team of professionals including a planning barrister and planning consultant to successfully regularise the situation, allowing for future development. At this point the client decided to follow a different development path.

With FFLO landscape architects.

View of proposed kitchen, enclosed by a glazed vitrine, with new chimney and balcony beyond
Living room